Monopoly, rampant drugs, and alphabet soup: The GSP-UFC saga gets 'kooky'

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

In the end, the acronyms just wouldn’t align -- GSP did VADA, Johny Hendricks tripped on WADA, the UFC did NADA because, bro…when it comes to PEDs, TUEs and TRTs, that’s what the NAC is for! And through what can only be described as a process of integrity, St-Pierre wasn’t exactly ROTFL, as it turns out.

Two months later, we're still dealing in the fallout.

St-Pierre, the UFC’s most bankable star, decided to take some time off after (narrowly) defending his belt against Hendricks at UFC 167 in Las Vegas. He cited fight game pressure and personal competitive obsession as the reasons for giving the belt back to the UFC to do with as they please. He didn’t say he was definitively coming back; he just said something that sounded sort of like so long for now.

And since that early December day, it’s like he’s been exonerated after a long, drawn-out trial. He’s been loving life as a mere civilian with ordinary cares, and ordinary things to do. He’s breathing easy again with no target on his back. All the little things.

It’s like he’s free.

Although, you know…there’s still some things he wants off his chest. Now that a little time has passed since following through on his hiatus, something like the "real truth" is beginning to emerge as to why he actually vacated his belt and left his fighting future in question.

When GSP spoke to a group of reporters in Montreal this week, one thing became very clear: He didn’t dig the UFC’s handling of his voluntary drug testing ahead of his Nov. 16 fight with Hendricks, and that played a significant role in him deciding to put his shoes back on.

"It bothered me enormously," he told a pack of Quebec media, speaking in French. "That’s one of the reasons why I stopped fighting. Not really to teach them a lesson, because that would also punish me. I wanted to do something for the sport. I love the sport. I see the direction it’s going, and I don’t think it makes any sense. This is stupid."

If you’ve followed him through his five-year reign as the UFC’s welterweight champion, you know this: Getting information out of a tight-lipped St-Pierre traditionally requires a crowbar, a safecracker’s patience and an ability to connect bouncing dots. He isn’t always so forthcoming. He’s been known to throw clichés as effortlessly as he does jabs.

Then again, maybe today’s GSP isn’t yesterday’s. Maybe he’s tired of concealing what’s on his mind. After all, it was that very thing -- keeping his thoughts to himself -- that ultimately led to UFC president Dana White erupting during UFC 167 post-fight press conference. It wasn’t that he was retiring (maybe) and leaving the welterweight division in a state of unresolve. It was that he never communicated his intentions with the UFC. That the UFC found out along with everyone else. Which made for acrimony where for so long there had been mutual admiration.

St-Pierre didn’t hide his frustration that Hendricks couldn’t figure out the difference between VADA (Voluntary Anti-Doping Association) and WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency), or that White used words like "looking stupid" when weighing in on the arrangement to voluntarily pretest as it was happening. When he thought he’d get the UFC’s support, he got a shoulder shrug. White deferred to the Nevada Athletic Commission, which tests fighters through its own protocol, and saw the whole volunteer thing as extraneous and unnecessary. St-Pierre, who has been accused of taking PEDs at times throughout his career, saw it as something higher-minded and proactive.

He saw it as step towards cleaning up MMA, which has a gray center where cheaters and on-the-level fighters are perceived -- and treated -- as equals.

"I wanted to do something to help those who are honest in the sport," he told the Montreal media. "Believe me or not, I never took drugs in my life. I’ll take a lie detector test, I don’t care. I’m for anti-doping tests. I think it’s a big problem in the sport. This is a relatively new sport. There’s one organization that has a monopoly, so the fighters don't have much power. They can’t really talk because if one says what he thinks, he will get punished."

Monopoly? Cheating? Big problems? All of this out of GSP’s mouth?

UFC CEO and co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta reacted to St-Pierre’s admission to Yahoo’s Kevin Iole. He said he was "extremely disappointed" to hear those comments from St-Pierre, because, "I don’t think any organization has embraced drug testing as we have."

Dana White, who addressed the GSP situation from Duluth, Georgia, Wednesday night, where he was for UFC Fight Night 35, took it further.

"What I heard is, Georges St-Pierre is upset about some of the things that I said at the [UFC 167] press conference," he told the small media gathering. "And he's upset that I said he didn't win the fight, that I thought Johny Hendricks won the fight. But if that's the case, call me man to man. Let's talk on the phone. Let's sit down face-to-face. I talked to him afterwards face-to-face. He didn't say any of that to me. So the whole thing is a little weird.

"And then as far as the other thing he said, that we're a monopoly? Viacom is a competitor. They have a $40 billion market cap. Forty. Billion. Dollars. Okay, I'm never going to see $40 billion as long as I live. Neither will the UFC. So, we're not a monopoly either. Everything Georges St-Pierre said is a little kooky."

So, GSP is "bothered enormously" by the UFC’s lack of support, Fertitta is "extremely disappointed" in St-Pierre’s lack of understanding, and Dana White thinks the whole thing's "kooky." You know where that leaves us?

Right back where we were when White lambasted St-Pierre in the post-fight press conference for vaguely retiring after the Hendricks bout. It’s that the UFC is hearing it for the first time along with everyone in the private-to-public domain, as the once sealed GSP has now sprung a leak. There's very little communication between one of the game's greatest champions and the UFC, which just isn't healthy for a sustained relationship.

The big difference is that this time it feels like St-Pierre is trying to set the public record straight. He is saying very clearly that the UFC isn’t addressing a drug problem within its ranks, and that he’d rather not be a part of it until they do. He is perhaps putting into words -- the fighter who never makes waves -- what plenty of others are thinking, which is that cheaters are rampant, and the powers that be are pretty dismissive of it.

St-Pierre’s saying that by him taking steps to do something about it and being scoffed at for his efforts, that he cares more about this part of the sport’s image than they do. The UFC is saying, very simply, WTF?

"You want to talk about being lenient?" White countered. "The fight that I was screaming about, yelling about being the greatest fight I'd ever seen, Mark Hunt and 'Bigfoot' Silva? We tested the guys for that fight, we caught Bigfoot Silva, and he got destroyed. He literally got destroyed for going over the limit...he lost the win money that we gave him. He lost the bonus money that we gave him, and obviously he's not getting an extra bonus. The guy got smashed, and he's suspended for a year."

Who knows. Tomorrow St-Pierre may recant the whole thing, and say he was taken out of context, that there’s no such thing as a promotional monopoly. He may call White and talk "man to man" and squash it with a bro hug. This is as likely as anything. But St-Pierre's reasons for vacating his title seem to be broader than first imagined.

And in retrospect, it wasn’t just gamesmanship for GSP to invite Hendricks to do VADA testing (something Hendricks ultimately declined to be a part of) before their encounter. St-Pierre wasn’t pointing an accusatory finger in any specific direction, but in one general direction.

Yet just because he came clean about his motivations during a media scrum doesn’t mean the sport will. That’s an area as gray as St-Pierre’s own future in the UFC, one that we've only now come to realize is intricately linked.

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